Mama: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

                                                          Peanut butter & Jelly offers comfort. Mama does not…

Mama movie poster

             It’s a classic tragic ghost story that sucks you in, scares you some, and tugs on your heart strings as well. Like any good tragic ghost story should, right? But don’t be fooled by the innocence the movie’s simple title conveys.

I got spooked.               mama grabs hand

The story starts bleak and rapidly grows colder. Two young girls are led into a thought-to-be abandoned cabin in the woods by their father after a terrible car accident. You find out right away it’s not uninhabited, and you get awfully disturbing glimpses of the “soul” proprietor right away. Mama.

But Mama saves the girls. First, from the unexpected danger of their father and then from impending death brought on by starvation and being left to fend for themselves at such a tender age. After years of existing only with the ghostly Mama as their caregiver, the feral children are discovered and brought back into a new world of human contact, comfort, and care from a devoted uncle and his reluctant wife.

feral child mama      But don’t they know a mama’s love is forever?

I’m certainly no movie critic, but I think everything fell right into place for this ghost tale. From the dark, decrepit scenery to the plot-moving dialogue, I sunk into the gloomy mystery that just kept getting creepier by the moment. I loved how the movie didn’t need a particularly scare-worthy soundtrack building up to each “gotcha” moment. Instead, I thought the characters and their dialogue were the driving force behind the spooks.

Although the vagueness of Mama’s desperate back story may have some viewers wishing for more, for me it was just the right dosage of withheld information to keep me wondering, “What went wrong here?” And sometimes not getting all the answers can be what makes a ghost story so good.Mama crawling

One more thing: If you are looking for a comfortable ending, look elsewhere. The closing of the movie was just as solidly sad as the beginning and had me yearning for some real comfort food after the final credits. I couldn’t think of anything better than peanut butter at that moment!

The Recipe: When I think of my own mama, I think of sitting together at the lunch table, dipping a folded peanut butter sandwich into a cup of cold chocolate milk. Since a peanut butter sandwich would make a very uninteresting recipe, I came up with a sweeter, more exciting version of the classic PB & J.

A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich cookie! 

Being low on flour (astounding, I know, but it does occur from time to time) I wondered what would happen if I made a flourless peanut butter cookie. Great things, apparently! Aside from being simple to make, it has the added benefit of being something I can offer my gluten-free buddies. If you are a mama, make this with the kiddos. If you have a mama, invite her over for some. If you see Mama (and I highly recommend you do), be ready to indulge in few yourself afterward.

100_1553Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

(Makes 12 cookie sandwiches, depending on how big you make the cookies)

Ingredients:

2 cups peanut butter + about 3 Tbsp more PB to spread inside (the kind with no added sugar)

Strawberry jam (Smuckers makes a gluten-free version)

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

Cookie sheets, parchment paper, fork

How to Make Em: Get the oven up to 325 degrees. Prep your cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy lifting. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 2 cups of PB, the eggs, and the vanilla. Using your hands or a heavy duty stirring spoon, mix them together until combined. Add the sugar and salt.

You don’t need a cookie scoop for these. Just pinch off some dough, roll it into a ball depending on how big you want your sammiches, and place them a couple inches apart on your prepped baking sheets. Don’t forget to use your fork to stamp those nifty little “this is homemade” crosshatch marks across the top of each cookie. Bake about 10-12 mins. Cool completely before assembling into the snacks.

Assembly is the yummy fun part. Spread PB over the flat bottom of one cookie and add a dollop of jam. Smoosh em together for the most ultimate comfort cookie sandwich ever! Don’t forget to lick the knife when you are done! Just…carefully.

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Until next time…stay spooky, my fiends, and support new horror!

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Silent Night: Santa’s Mint Coal Cookies

          He made a list. He checked it twice. He knows who’s been naughty, and his visit won’t be nice.

                                                                                                    silent night

     Gore hounds rejoice! Santa Claus is coming to town, and he’s bringing a flame thrower, an axe, a sickle thingy, and a wood chipper in the new seriously violent remake of Silent Night Deadly Night (now simply titled Silent Night).

In this revisioning of the controversial 1984 yuletide slasher, Santa is delivering more than just gift-wrapped boxes of coal to the residents of a dying town’s naughty list. He is striking them down in the most brutal, sadistic ways possible. Like any good mindless slasher flick, it contains no real depth of character while stacking plenty of bodies under the tree. Malcolm McDowell stars as the town’s apathetic sheriff that spouts some pretty ridiculous dialogue meant to add a dash of dark humor to this tragic movie, but really it just comes off as corny writing with a silly delivery.santa flame thrower

Of course, Silent Night was made to shock and horrify while capitalizing on the Remake Syndrome, and it definitely does. And unfortunately, it’s lost the panache and manipulative scariness of the original movie altogether. But if you are looking for a gutsy, gory Christmas story to watch while waiting for the jollier, less homicidal Santa’s arrival, please indulge! I’m going to stick with the original. Its trailer alone gave me the holiday horrors…

Victim of the Christmas Tree Wood Chipper

Victim of the Christmas Tree Wood Chipper

The Recipe: Haven’t been so good this year? Santa won’t mind too much as long as you leave him a plate of these chocolatey goodies corrupt with serious mint flavor. Rolled in sugar before baking gives them a sparkly sweet exterior, and they do really look like pieces of coal! But they taste much more innocent and chewy. Keep in mind these cookies need a few hours of chill time so prepare accordingly.

Santa’s Mint Coal Cookies

(Makes 2 dozen lumps of yummy coal)

Ingredients:

2/3 c brown sugar, ½ tsp salt, ¾ c baking cocoa, 11/2 c + 2Tbsp flour, 11/2 tsp baking soda, 1 large egg white, ½ c light corn syrup, 1 tsp vanilla, 11/2 tsp peppermint extract, 1 ½ sticks cool butter (not soft but not cold), 11/2 c chocolate chunks, extra sugar for rolling, hand or stand mixer, baking pans, parchment paper

How to Make em:

In a mixing bowl or bowl of standing mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar with your hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In the meantime, whisk the egg white, corn syrup, and extracts together. Add the egg white mixture to the creamed butter-sugar until thoroughly combined. In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add in the chocolate chunks. Add the dry mixture to the rest and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2-4 hours.

Prep at least 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into small 1-2” balls and roll around in the extra sugar. Place the cookies about an inch apart on the baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Doneness tip: You will see small cracks forming on the top. Cool completely. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for about 3 weeks.

Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas!

Up close for a sparkly look

Up close for a sparkly look


The Ghosts of Christmas Past: Bedford Falls Cookies and Mrs. Kringle’s Crinkles

     Even dead girls can be sentimental. It’s Christmas Night 2011, but tonight I’m transported back through Christmases past.
            The pinnacle of the holiday season for me as a child was our annual family Christmas celebrations. I came from parents that each had a slightly large extended family, and two evenings a season would be dedicated to partyin’ with them.  I loved decorating the tree, driving around light-gawking, and of course, the time spent decorating sugar cookie cutouts with my mom. And I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve shopping, opening stockings, and playing the records I usually received from my parents really loud in the living room the night before Christmas. And Santa’s arrival with my grandparents there to share in our Christmas morning joy was always wonderful, but the family Christmas parties were my hands-down favorite seasonal events!
            I was extremely close to my grandmother (dad’s mom). As Christmas approaches every year, I get extremely sentimental about her love for the holiday. Sure, she loved all the holidays. We spent Fourth of July at the lake with her awesome macaroni salad. She made us goody bags and watched scary movies with me on Halloween, and Thanksgiving was splendidly loaded with her traditional favorites like carrot-lime jello and deviled eggs, but Christmas was my grandma’s most beloved holiday, and she steeped it with so much tradition, joy, and fun.
            To prepare for this sacred night, we spent hours at the dining room table wrapping armloads of gifts to put under a meager Christmas tree that made Charlie Brown’s tree look glorious. My grandparents’ tree wasn’t bald or tiny. I just remember it looking quite homely with silk ornaments and cheap plastic icicles I loved hanging on every branch.
            Grandma and I would work many evenings baking batch after batch of cookies-nothing too complex or elaborately decorated because my grandmother liked simple and very traditional treats. Peanut butter with the hatch cross tops; peanut butter blossoms with the Hershey’s Kisses I’d unwrap until my fingers cramped, and cherry chip cookies that looked so festive on her round cookie platters. We’d whip up pounds of rich, marshmallowy fudge and glassy peanut brittle. Then, we’d store every baked good in these huge plastic conical tubs until the night arrived to dress up the cookie plates.
            Party Night was magical. The entire family would arrive dressed in their holiday finest. Your senses would be overtaken with Christmas! The scent of grandma’s goodies, grandpa’s turkey, and all the other yuletide yummies invited you in. The sound of Bing Crosby crooning about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reminded you that Santa would soon be visiting! The sight of garland draped gaudily over anything that stood still made you giggle alongside the cousins you couldn’t wait to run through the house beside. We cousins would eat food that filled three rooms of the small home. We’d congregate at tables, talking excitedly over each other, wondering aloud about the surprises each wrapped box contained. And when Santa ho-ho-hoed through the front door, we’d stampede into the living room for a chance to sit on his lap and tell him exactly what we wanted to find under our own trees Christmas morning. We’d sing fun carols like Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. We’d open gifts. We’d eat again, this time desserts, and sometimes sneak sips of wine cocktails and Aunt Shirley’s beer while we helped her belt out classic Willie Nelson tunes. Family feuds were put aside. Financial hardship and troubled homes did not exist. It was definitely a time of good tidings, comfort, and joy. Ah, good times for sure.
            In my adulthood, with both grandparents gone, I’ve missed the parties, but moreso the warm fuzzy feelings I left with after a night with my family. In more recent pasts, I’ve tried to replicate the sensation by resurrecting grandma’s cookie and candy recipes, putting together keepsake recipe scrapbooks as gifts to my aunts, and attending every year’s family Christmas party-still. I even bought a copy of Bing Crosby’s greatest holiday hits because it was my grandpa’s seasonal soundtrack. He loved singing along to Bing’s White Christmas, and I loved being the little girl he chose to dance with most often under the mistletoe. But in my heart, I know things would never feel the same. And they shouldn’t. They can’t. No matter how many bricks of fudge I make or how loud I play that cd, the greatness of the past will never be duplicated, and I’m willing to accept it after all these years of wishful thinking.
            So this year, I really did move on. I refused to pull out grandma’s old recipes, and I tried a few new treats of my own. I’m ready to pave my own edible holiday legacy, create goodies that my granddaughters will someday treasure in books or recipe boxes or on cookie platters. By the looks of my own empty cookie platters, I’d like to think I’m well on my way!
            My gift to you this season as Christmas 2011 inevitably comes to a close-a couple cookie recipes that I think turned out exceptionally well this year (for their debut appearance on my sideboard). Happy Holidays!!
Recipe #1: Bedford Falls Oatmeal Cookies
(Makes about 2 dozen)
Inspired by Frank Capra’s dramatic masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life, these would be appropriate during the holiday season, but certainly are not intended to just be enjoyed for Christmas. (As you should know, Capra’s movie was not intended as a holiday film, but if it looks and feels like Christmas may as well be Christmas). I made a few wonderful changes of my own to traditional oatmeal raisin cookies. You may not be running through the streets hollering Merry Christmas to the town because you’ll be too busy stuffing your face with these little angels! Now, if only I had a cold glass of milk and a young Jimmy Stewart to share them with….
½ c shortening
¾ brown sugar
½ c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
11/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 c quick-cooking oats
1 entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I highly encourage Hershey’s)
1 c toffee bits (I highly recommend Heath English Toffee bits)
Cookie sheets and a cookie scoop
Obligatory Reminder: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Do not grease cookie sheets unless you want really runny cookies.
-In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and both sugars with a hand/stand mixer.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to a creamy submission. Add the vanilla until well blended.
-In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
-By hand, stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture until well blended.
-Fold in the good stuff: oats, chocolate chips, and toffee bits.
-Using your cookie scoop, add mounds of dough onto the cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart. Don’t have a cookie scoop? Use a standard table spoon. (Think about asking Santa for a cookie scoop next year.)
-Bake for about 10-12 mins or until the edges are slightly browned.
-Cool 5 mins on the pan before cooling on your wire racks. Don’t have wire racks? What kind of baking loser are you?? Darn it, use a newspaper lined tabletop for cooling. These can be stored airtight for about a week.
Recipe #2: Mrs. Kringles’ Crinkles
(Makes about 5-6 dozen, depending on how large you make em)
I don’t have nothin’ on Mrs. Claus when it comes to cookie baking I’m sure, so I thought I’d humbly rename the classic crinkle cookie after her. Unbelievably, I’ve never made these babies until this year. After one bite, I’m regretting that. Oh well. They have certainly been added to my “must-bake” nice list for Christmases future.
2 c sugar
¾ c vegetable oil
1 c baking cocoa (I highly recommend Hershey’s)
4 eggs (yep, you counted right)
2 tsp vanilla
2 ½ c flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
At least 11/2 c of powdered sugar
Note to You: This cookie dough needs at least an hour of chill time in the fridge.
Obligatory Reminder: Set oven to 350 degrees when you are ready to bake. Cookie sheet greasing/prepping is not necessary.
-In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and the sugar.
-Add the cocoa until nicely combined.
-Beat in the eggs (one at a time, please) and the vanilla.
-In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
-Take your time. Slowly add the dry mix to the cocoa mix. Beat into a creamy submission.
-Cover the dough. Chill it out in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough should be firm enough to handle.
-Shape dough into 1 inch balls if you want small cookies. Go larger for bigger cookies.
-Roll the dough into a shallow dish of powdered sugar.
-Pop them on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
-Bake about 10-12 mins. You will know these are done when you see the slight cracks forming along the tops of the cookies.
-Cool for about 3 mins before moving to wire racks to cool completely.
-Do not overbake or these yummies become like mud-packed snowballs!! Hard as ice, I warn you.

Mrs. Kringle’s Crinkles are center stage with Bedford Falls Oatmeal Cookies taking a supporting role. And sorry-no North Pole elves around to fix the date stamp on my camera. Grrrr.